Off Trail Adventures

Urban Hiking in DC

Urban Hiking is an active walk taken in an urban environment that goes through parks, uses stairwells, crosses intersections, and meanders through the city’s obstacles of life. … It’s often more strenuous than a walk, can include a local or regional trail, and it might even require your balance across an unbridged creek.

Urban Hiking….It’s a thing!

For our 30th wedding anniversary, we decided to take a trip to Washington DC. We love history and wanted to incorporate hiking into our trip as well. Several friends recommended that DC would be perfect for us and “wow” were they right! Seeing our nation’s capitol in December was spectacular.

To save a bit of money and have a more authentic experience, we flew into Baltimore Airport. Took a free airport bus over to the train station and rode the MARC (commuter train) into DC’s Union Station. Tickets are easy to get through a small self-serve kiosk. We paid $7 each to ride one way. Check times on the trains, as they do not run 24 hours. We also got there on a Monday morning at the height of rush hour commuter travel into the city. Standing room only with our suitcases squished in with us too! Like I said…authentic experience.

From Union Station, we took a city regulated Taxi to our Airbnb in Capitol Hill. The taxi cost us $11 with tip. We were early, so we were able to leave our luggage there until check-in. Always a great amenity to have. Find a place that is close to a metro station and a market for shopping. Trader Joe’s was very close to the metro for us, so we were able to pick up food on our way home after our initial stock up on day 1. We always ate breakfast at home, then had dinner and lunch out. Snacks and wine were bought for late night snacking and relaxing after our long days.

Before you go, contact your Congressman to have some special tours set-up. The Library of Congress, The Capitol, Printing and Engraving, and the The White House can all be set-up for free. The White House is the hardest to get and takes 3-6 months advanced notice. Each Congressman has a website (California) where you can fill out a tour request. They get back to you in a few weeks with dates and confirmations of what they were able to get. If traveling in the summer, submit your requests as soon as you can. It is their peak season and tours are much harder to come by.

With our hiking boots on, we were ready to go! We purchased a SmartTrip card for the metro at a kiosk located in the entrance to the Eastern Market metro station. We did $20 ($2 processing fee) each on a card. The metro system in DC is easy to learn and very clean. Almost all of the main areas to see are accessible on the blue/orange/silver line. Each time you exit, the turnstile will show you how much money you have left on your card. Then it is easy to figure out when you need to reload. We found it cheaper than a pass, since we were doing a lot of “urban hiking”.

Almost everywhere we went was free, except for a few museums that were must see’s for us. That left more money to eat our way through DC! DC is a food lover’s dream and you can find some great food at any budget. We usually splurged a bit on dinner and our favorites were the restaurants Founding Farmers &Farmers and Distillers. Both owned by the same people. Amazing food and service!

We were able to eat whatever we wanted daily, because we averaged 6-10 miles each day of “urban hiking”. We totaled 44 miles in 6 days. Everything is within walking and metro distance. It is a great city to explore and find new things to do and see. I also highly recommend the night time monument tour. It lets you take a break and see everything in a whole new way. Especially in December with the lights, trees, and wreaths, it is well worth the price. We used Old Town Trolley Tours. The driver was very well informed and gave us a great night of touring. Because traffic was bad that evening, our tour ran late and he graciously dropped those of us that rode the metro at a station entrance so we could catch a train before they quit running at 11:00pm.

Our must see recommendations are: Library of Congress, Arlington Cemetery & The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier change of guard, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, The White House, Holocaust Museum, The Capitol, and Museum of the Bible.

Getting to explore our nation’s capitol on foot was by far one of my favorite vacations we have done. I am glad that “urban hiking” is a thing now. When the trails are full of mud and snow, I can now have new adventures blazing trails on concrete, cobblestones, and asphalt!

For more pictures of our trip, check out our DC ALBUM.

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